Eric Longenhagen and Kiley McDaniel published their top-100 list on Monday. Other outlets have released similar lists, as well, recently — outlets including Baseball America, Baseball Prospectus, Keith Law, and MLB Pipeline. I submitted my own contribution yesterday with KATOH’s top-100 prospects. All of these lists attempt to accomplish the very same goal: both to identify and rank the best prospects. But KATOH goes about it in a very different way than the others. While most others rely heavily on scouting, KATOH focuses on statistical performance.
On the whole, there’s a good deal of agreement between KATOH and the more traditional rankings. Many of KATOH’s favorite prospects have also received praise from real-live human beings who’ve watched them play. Ronald Acuna, Vladimir Guerrero, Jr., Brent Honeywell, Michael Kopech, and Kyle Tucker all fall within this group. In general, there is a lot of agreement. However, there are other KATOH favorites who’ve received little public consideration from prospect analysts. The purpose of this article is to give these prospects a little bit of attention.
For each position, I’ve identified the player, among those excluded from all top-100 lists, who’s best acquitted by KATOH. These players have performed in the minors in a way that usually portends big-league success. Yet, for one reason or another, each has been overlooked by prospect evaluators.
Of course, the fact that these players missed every top-100 list suggests that their physical tools are probably underwhelming. That’s very important information! Often times, the outlook for players like this is much worse than their minor-league stats would lead you to believe. There’s a reason people in the industry always say “don’t scout the stat line.” Although KATOH scouts the stat line in an intuitive fashion, it still overlooks important inputs that can predict big-league success.
Still, the stat-line darlngs sometimes pan out. I performed this exact same exercise last year, as well, and I’m proud to say there were some big successes. Rhys Hoskins, Jake Faria, Ben Gamel, Chad Green, and Brandon Nimmo have each blossomed into productive big leaguers just one year out. Zach Davies and Edwin Diaz also appeared in this space two years ago. Of course, others haven’t worked out so well. Clayton Blackburn, Dylan Cozens, Ramon Flores, and Garrett Stubbs: none of them were particularly useful major leaguers in 2017. There will be hits, and there will be misses, especially when you’re dealing with non-elite prospects.
C – Jake Rogers, Detroit (Profile)
Why KATOH Loves Him
Rogers hit a respectable .261/.350/.467 across two levels of A-ball last year, pairing an 11% walk rate with encouraging power. Most impressive of all, however, is that he did so as a catcher — a position where good hitters are few and far between. Rogers isn’t just any catcher, either: Clay Davenport’s defensive numbers graded him out as elite. Elite defensive catchers who can also hit a little are exceptionally valuable.
Why Scouts Don’t (J.J Cooper)
He has a big leg kick to start his swing, and takes a ferocious cut with a pull-heavy approach. When his swing works, he has the power to deposit pitches in the left-field bleachers. When it doesn’t, he rolls over ground outs or hits a number of harmless pop outs. Evaluators generally see Rogers as a below-average hitter with a lot of swings and misses and average bat speed.
Usually, KATOH’s catcher crushes are good hitters who are questionable behind the plate. Rogers is the exact opposite, as his offense is the questionable piece. Eric Longenhagen called him “best defensive catching prospect I’ve seen, a polished receiver and cat-like ball-blocker with a plus arm” over the summer. Even if Rogers’ A-ball numbers ultimately don’t translate, he could still be a solid regular given how little catchers hit. For example, Martin Maldonado defended his way to 1.1 WAR last year in spite of a 73 wRC+.
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